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Monday, February 07, 2011

The River Theatre (Guerneville, CA) 1982 Liz and Julie Conundrum, Resolved

In my previous post on the JGB's early 1980s drummers and backup singers, I grappled with the puzzle of the backup singers on 10/24/82 at the River Theater, 16135 Main Street, Guerneville, CA, 95446-8301:

an eyewitness to the 10/24/82 River Theater (Guerneville, CA) show, which we know featured the return of female vocalists after the brief four-show interregnum of 10/13 and 10/21-23, thought that "Julie" was one of the singers. This was how Julie Stafford first came to my attention as someone who might have sung onstage with JGB ...

I then noted in comments the following:

The eyewitness to the River Theater (Guerneville, 10/24/82) show is Julie A., and she is exceptionally credible. She and John saw a great fraction of Bay Area Jerry shows from '79-90s or so, and taped many of them. She may come post here, but in any case she says she is 100% sure that the backup singers on 10/24/82 were two white women, Julie and Liz ... And if Jacklyn and DeeDee didn't start on 10/24/82, then we have their debut date wrong, too.
I believe I have this little conundrum solved: JGB also played the River Theater, Guerneville, CA, on May 31, 1982, and I believe that this is the Guerneville show with Liz and Julie singing. It would have been in the "Liz and Julie" period. Julie Anzaldo avers that the "Liz and Julie" show could have been 5/31. She remembers Roadrunner being played, but it was played at both Guerneville shows. There weren't any other particular rarities that might have set the two shows apart in memory, except perhaps for the guest shot by Matt Kelly on harmonica at the May 31 show (for "Mystery Train").

This may help to resolve two things in particular that had confused me. First, it restores the longstanding understanding that Jacklyn LaBranch and DeeDee Dickerson debuted on 10/24/82. Second, it reconciles with the Liz Stires chronology, which has her leaving after the 6/22/82 Mosque Show in Richmond, VA.

Update: I have posted listening notes on 5/31/82.

On the theater, I would love to learn more! Seems like my kind of place

Here are the Garcia dates I have for it:

Reconstruction, June 13, 1979 (Wednesday)
Jerry Garcia Band, May 31, 1982 (Monday)
Jerry Garcia Band, October 24, 1982 (Sunday)
Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, September 28, 1984 (Friday)
Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, August 17, 1985 (Saturday)
Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, October 11, 1985 (Friday)

! map: And here is the Google Street View from ca. now:


  1. Here's what I've got:

    River Theatre
    16135 Main Street
    Guerneville, CA 95446
    Capacity 645

    The movie theater dates back to at least the 1940s, but the front of the theater has been completely remodeled, including the marquee.
    This theater was abandoned for years until it was converted to a live music venue in the 1990s.
    A historic venue for music in Sonoma County, in recent years it’s been oriented to gays. Now they are returning to more general music shows on Friday nights. Always fine sound and good dance floor.

  2. in the late '70s impresario Morty Wiggins began booking it as a live music venue, bringing in the likes of the Jerry Garcia Band, Emmylou Harris, David Bromberg and others, twice a month.

  3. slip, thank you very much for sharing your venue information. This is wonderful stuff.

  4. Hey, just found your incredible website and THANK YOU for all your research and of course, the music.

    I grew up in Monte Rio downstream from Guerneville and passed by the River Theatre hundreds of times in the 1970s and 1980s. The music bookings were pretty varied--I especially recall GBH and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles in about 1984 or so, excellent hardcore thrash/punk. I deeply regret my first dead show wasn't until senior year of high school (1986) so I didn't get to catch Jerry here. Anyone want to speculate if these gigs owed anything to his childhood experiences on the Russian River?

  5. When a commenter says "anyone want to speculate" I take it as a personal request...

    The Grateful Dead had a lot of connections to the Russian River, but I don't think any of them had much to do with Garcia's childhood. However, I would speculate that Garcia's willingness to relax and play tiny gigs in Sonoma may have come from his lifelong association with the area. Of course, speaking rationally, who wouldn't feel relaxed in Sonoma?

    In the Summer of '67, the Dead spent a lot of time at a resort on the Russian River, though I'm not sure where. It belonged to some rich friend of the band, although who it was is unclear to me. The deal may have been connected to their Monday night residency at The Rendezvous in San Francisco in May 1967, one of SF's hip gay bars.

    Now, of course, the owner of a hip gay bar would be written up in the Chronicle with a picture of his husband and kids in their stylish condo, but things were different back then.

    1. I believe that would be the Rio Nido Roadhouse. Story goes Hunter wrote Dark Star while hanging there with Jerry and the Boyz.


    2. Is that basically the same space that's still in use, right off the river road heading toward Guerneville?

  6. Club Rendevous at 1312 Polk St.? It's still there!

    Great drinks, old gossipy queens, and a taste of what a dive bar should always be: unconditional dysfunctional love for the locals & alcohol. This place is FILTHY.

  7. Just noticed there's no listing for The Rendevous at Deadlists.

  8. The Rendezvous Inn was on Sutter, just above Powell, near Union Square. Apparently it was quite legendary. The Rendezvous on Polk may be some sort of homage, but it's not the same place.

    My post on it is here

  9. Russian River connection might have to do with them spending time at the Warnecke Ranch out on Chalk Hill Rd in Healdsburg. Alligator was supposed to be written there.

  10. "Russian River connection might have to do with them spending time at the Warnecke Ranch out on Chalk Hill Rd in Healdsburg. Alligator was supposed to be written there."

    Is that where the band was staying when they played the Dance Hall in Rio Nido those couple of nights Labor Day weekend 1967? IIRC the GD debuted Alligator then and there, right?

    Thanks, anon!

  11. I'm pretty sure the Dead spent a month in the Russian River in May, 1967. I had never heard where they stayed, however, so this is very interesting. The Dead spent a month at the Russian River and also played every Monday night at the Rendezvous on Geary Street. I do not know if these two things were related, but I think they were (I have a blog post somewhere).

    Some of the band's doings were immortalized in the 7-minute Robert Nelson film, with the Dead paddling a canoe and so forth.

    As to the chronology of "Alligator," didn't Hunter send the band the lyrics from New Mexico? Since Hunter arrived in California in July of '67, he would have had to send them earlier, so May makes sense. Supposedly he arrived at the Straight to find the band playing "Alligator". Supposedly it was a two hour version. Sure. Anyway, I have always assumed that was July 23 at the Straight.

    I think the band returned to Rio Nido in the Fall, and Hunter wrote the lyrics to "Dark Star" in September of '67.

    I'm not certain of any of the chronology so all of this is subject to change.

  12. The anonymous Commenter has done better scholarship than me. I looked carefully and saw that McNally describes the visit to the Warnecke ranch and the composition of "Alligator" (p. 184-85).

    I had the July part of the timeline wrong as well. Hunter doesn't arrive in the Bay Area until late August or early September '67, when the Dead are playing Rio Nido (Sep 3).

  13. Here's what interesting. I may have mentioned this once before. On 7/16/67 Garcia gives an interview to the Seattle Helix in which he says the GD are looking to move to the Southwest, and mentions New Mexico by name. It would be a pretty shocking coincidence if there weren't some Hunter angle to that.

  14. It was late May when the band spent time at the Russian River place.
    Phil Lesh talks about it in his book: "In May of '67, we decided to take up an offer made to us by John Warnecke, a friend of Billy's from high school, who had invited us to his dad's summer place up on the Russian River to hang out."
    They spent their time rehearsing, startling unsuspecting boaters with bursts of feedback, and working on Alligator. (Although Hunter had mailed them the initial lyrics, the rest of the song, curiously enough, is the only known Lesh/Pigpen collaboration.)

    Phil suggests that Alligator's live debut was at the Cafe a Go Go in NYC (a 45-minute version, ahem...) - but our earliest rendition on tape is at Monterey, June 18.

    And Dark Star was indeed born at Rio Nido in September.

  15. There's an intriguing obit for John Warnecke jr here

  16. Two demerits to me for conflating Alligator and Dark Star. tsk tsk If you don't hear from me, you'll know the tie-dye police have scooped me up.

    Thanks for the additional information.

  17. Here's the deal so to speak, the famous "Barbed Wire Whipping Post Party" tapes were from this period. They were staying at the Morning Star Ranch,at the time owned by one Phil Gottlieb and now Rose Mary Gladstone. It was a hippy commune in the day now a Herbal School. ps I attended at least afew Jerry shows at the River THtr. Last show i saw there was NRPS w/Peter Rowan and the free mexican Airforce. Thats the last time i saw Marmaduke ,D,Nelson was not in Riders at the time.The next afternoon I ran into Pete Rowan at the sonoma-Marin border at Rotten Robbies gas station on my way to a Giants double header.

    1. I thought the Barbed Wire Whipping Party tapes were in the Aoxomoxoa period, probably 1968-1969, not anytime in1967.

  18. I went to the 82 jerry garcia band show with my cousin John.... I thought it was 1981 though I was 16 years old and I specifically remember the middle finger of garcia it was like he was flipping off the audiance while playing his guitar.... I always thought it was my imagination cause we were fried...The concert was a life changing experience for me as I was learning to play the guitar and the River Theater was such a small venue... being able to see Garcia up close and personal completely blew my mind...It was the most incredible show Ive ever been to in my life by far...It completely influenced me as a guitar player... I'll never forget it... Ever! although I only remember one song that they played they, covered James Taylor "How sweet it is to be loved by you." I think I remember the song because Garcia's lead and the volume it was played at actually played with my head in like this buzzing effect... not sure if he did that on purpose or if I hallucinated that but it was amazing...The concert reshaped the way I viewed music... Im so lucky to be able to have gone to that show as I feel I witnessed an experience that very few people have enjoyed... AMAZING!!!


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